Happy Wedding Wednesday, all! On this cold, wet WW, I'd like to talk about bridal shows, and how to maximize your experience at one. Mostly because the New Orleans Weddings Magazine's "Something Blue" Bridal Event is being held tonight at the Superdome and I am super-pumped! (See what I did there?)
Anyway, I don't know about all of you, but this will be my very first bridal show experience as a bride, so I'm definitely trying to make a game plan on how to really get the most out of this event. However, I'm not totally new to attending conventions. And since I had a lot of experience with expos, both professionally and personally, I've learned a couple of tricks to getting the most bang for my buck.
How To Get The Most Out Of A Bridal Show
Below are a few tips I've put into practice at other conventions, as well as some advice given to me by other brides. I hope they help prepare you for your next bridal show! Just remember, this is supposed to be a fun experience, so take the time to actually enjoy yourself and not stress out over every detail. Just like Rome, wedding's are 'built' in a day.
1). Pre-register for the event.
Like any good convention, there will be a lot of other attendees wanting to get in on the goods and scoop up vendors (shocking, I know!). If you want a decent shot at getting to the vendors first, buy your ticket ahead of time to avoid the lines at the door. Especially at an event like "Something Blue" where the timeline is only 3 hours, you definitely want to spend as much time meeting vendors as possible.
2). Research the vendors.
Take a little time to read up on who will have booths at the event. Getting an idea of the vendors that will be available to you and what types of services they offer will help you iron out your plan of attack. A list of the vendors for the "Something Blue" event can be found here.
3). Bring the necessities- food, supplies, and money.
First things first, make sure you eat a decent meal before you go- especially if it is an all-day affair. Not only will this keep you from passing out (kidding!), but you will also avoid any unnecessary binging at the event. I know when I'm hungry and don't plan ahead, I cave into cravings immediately! If you're "shedding for the wedding" like most brides, remember to slip a granola bar or other small snack into your purse before leave. Your will-power will thank you! Also, don't forget to bring a few supplies, including your planner, a pen, some paper, your checkbook, and a light-weight bag to carry handouts in. You'll want to have your planner accessible to schedule meetings with potential vendors or to coordinate dates, with a pen and paper for notes (and to fill out all of the awesome prize forms!). Some vendors may give you a bag, but bringing your own just in-case won't hurt. Bonus- you can separate handouts from the vendors you love into a your bag, giving you less things to sort through when you get home! Last but not least, DO NOT forget your checkbook. Imagine finding your perfect vendor, but being unable to secure a contract because you can't put down a payment. Bummer!
4). Arrive early.
Many large events, especially bridal shows, offer door prizes and specials that only run for a certain amount of time during the event. If you want to fully participate and have a better chance at winning some goods, get there early! This will also allow you enough time to visit all the vendors at your own speed.
5). Have a game plan.
When you get to the bridal show, you should have an idea of where to start. After you make a list of which vendors are attending (step 2), review your wedding checklist and decide which vendors you still need. From there, prioritize the vendors by necessity. For example, if you've already got your venue and caterer booked, but you still need of photographer, make that the first vendor you seek out at the show. At events like this, their calendars can fill up quickly. You don't want to risk finding your perfect photographer, only to be told that they have no availability on your date!
6). Prepare a list of questions.
After you've prioritized your top vendors, prepare to meet them just like you would for a consultation (research them, figure out what you need to ask). Having a list of questions is a great way to find out if they are a good fit for you vision, and your budget (step 7).
7). Know what you're willing to spend.
If you're further along in the planning process, you should have already ironed out a budget for your wedding. (If you're newly engaged, check out my timeline here for some guidance on where to start.) Because most vendors offer specials during bridal shows, its important to know what you are absolutely willing to spend so you don't get swept up in to the lure of a 'discount.' Keep your budget in mind and know what big ticket items you're willing to spend more money on- and the ones you are not. The number one way to ruin your experience is to get home from the event and realize you've gone well over your budget.
8). Organize your time.
After you've hit your priority vendors, its really a good idea to make a point and visit all of the remaining booths. I know this might sound contradictory to tip 7, but making time to grab a few extra business cards on potential vendors can be beneficial. One thing I've learned with wedding planning is that you never know what may change. Maybe your taste in the decor has shifted and you'd like to add more focus? Or perhaps your original vendor winds up not being a good fit? By taking the time to visit other booths, you will get a better impression of the vendors and the products they offer. And it will be that much easier to find what you need in the future, should you require it. I'm not saying to allow every vendor you visit to talk you into a 'deal!' But hear them out, their services may come in handy down the road.
9). Take pictures.
Bring along your camera (or your camera phone) to take photos of the displays and products you like. This will help to jog your memory of the vendors and what attracted you to them. Its also a good way to share the experience with you fiance if he isn't able to attend with you. But don't forget to ask permission, if needed!
10). Bring a friend.
If you're able, bring a friend or your fiance to the event for feedback. It's always best to bounce ideas off of someone, especially when a big ticket purchase is involved. If you're an impulse buyer, this is definitely a good idea to avoid going over budget. However, if no one is available to go with you, just prepare as listed in the steps above and discuss possible purchases with your fiance ahead of time.
11). Bring address labels.
This one is optional, but know that there will be a lot of mailing lists and forms to fill out- especially if you want in on any door prizes. If you have address labels or a personal stamp, you will save time filling out the same forms over and over again. Besides, who wants to be crowded around a table filling out forms, when you could be admiring all the beautiful displays?
Try not to get overwhelmed by all the details at the show. Grab as many brochures or business cards as you want, and take them with you to review in the privacy of your own home (unless you are 100% sure about the vendor). Don't let anyone push you into something you aren't comfortable with. You have the right to say no, and it's okay to tell them if you've already booked their service with another vendor. If you're looking for a polite way out of a situation where you feel pressured, simply say, "Thank you for the information. I'd like to discuss this with my fiance before we make a decision," and leave it at that. Remember to relax, take bathroom breaks, and eat a snack. Enjoy this experience while you can!
Alright ladies, that's if for now. Were these tips helpful? How about you veteran brides- what tips can you share with us? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Good luck to all my NOLA brides! I hope you find your perfect vendors!